International Writers Magazine: Ring
It took me more than an hour to open that damn box. Lately it has
been drawing my eye when Im in our bedroom. I say our
bedroom, but since the honeymoon I have felt increasingly like
a visitor in her bed. When we bought the house we had it decorated
and styled it could have been a photo-shoot in one of those
interior design glossies she buys in coffee and cream colours.
Shortly after we
returned from the honeymoon in Italy I had to take a business trip.
I was away for four days. When I got home she had a surprise for me:
our bedroom was still simple and elegant, but also an oppressively deep
red. And on her side of the bed was this box. Squat and square, medieval
looking, in a rich dark wood, and carved all over with a rioting profusion
of ivy leaves, like a green man. I assumed it was a late wedding gift
from one of her friends; I didnt ask, and she didnt mention
it. But lately I have noticed she strokes it, every time she passes
it. Her hand lingers over it in a way that
I dont like it.
I dont like the way she looks at me as she does so, either. She
might almost be a stranger, her dark eyes unfathomable, measuring, calculating.
Come to think of it, that was how she first looked at me when we were
introduced, before she smiled and I bought her a drink. Her smile
smile illuminates the darkest night and infuses it with warmth. I think
I began to fall in love with her then. I knew shed been married
before, I knew she ran her own PR business, that she had no children,
liked Italian food all the random details guaranteed to pique
the interest of men like me. As far as my crowd at the bar knew she
was not considered to be a potential bunny-boiler. But thats men
for you: we dont ask the right questions. She is beautiful and
I enjoyed her company. It wasnt long before I asked her to move
in with me. She looked at me again, that cool penetrating glance that
seemed to measure and weigh every ounce of my soul. And then she smiled,
the memory of that glance diminishing immediately as she said she would
love to. I remember the shape of her lips as she said it; the way her
teeth gently caught the middle of her lower lip in the soft v.
I was mesmerised.
We live well together, embodying the advertisers ideal couple;
we look good, drive BMWs, spend long weekends in Paris and Barcelona.
We entertain shes a damn good cook we have his and
hers gym membership, read the Sunday papers in bed, drink ethical coffee
It seemed to make perfect sense that I should go down on one knee in
the candlelight at her favourite restaurant the night before we put
her flat (she had rented it out) and my house on the market. I proffered
a tiny green velvet box containing a white-gold set solitaire. The room
held its breath while she looked at me, coolly appraising my offering:
the other diners paused in the act of lifting fork to mouth as they
became aware of romances drama played out in their midst. Paralysed
like a small rodent by headlights in the coldness of her regard, I couldnt
move. Finally she smiled, releasing the pressure in my lungs, lighting
up the room with an adamantine brilliance that outshone my ring, reassuring
us all that I was not loves fool.
We were married a year later. She organised it all without delegating,
the venue, the catering, commissioning our rings, everything. She made
everything seem effortless, running like clockwork. All I had to do
was organise the honeymoon. I presented her with the tickets the night
before the wedding. She flipped through the itinerary, frowning slightly,
then looked up at me and smiled. I had managed to get the best of everything,
first class all the way. I knew shed be pleased. That night in
bed she had a strangely rapturous intensity; we couldnt get enough
of each other. I remember her eyes in the near darkness, drinking me
in. Towards dawn she finally fell asleep, apparently satiated. I lay
there watching her, the perfect curve of her lashes against her cheek,
her lustrous dark hair tumbled across the pillow, the shape of her moulded
and concealed by the sheets, her breasts rising and falling with each
gentle breath. I could scarcely credit my luck; what on earth was this
beauty doing marrying me?
Later that day I was asking my self the same question, as I watched
her walk towards me in her wedding dress, subtly sexy in cream silk,
her hair piled high with wanton tendrils escaping around her face and
neck. She did not once take her eyes from mine as the registrar asked
the ritual questions demanded by law. When we finally exchanged rings
she smiled again, exhaling a long breath as she gently pushed the wide
gold band up my finger. As we kissed I began to feel strangely light-headed.
I put it down to lack of sleep. The rest of the day was superb. Everyone
enjoyed the day; my single friends looked enviously at my beautiful
wife, my married friends toasted our happiness with good humour. And
as the reception progressed, I began to believe that my good fortune
was unsurpassed; I really was the luckiest man alive.
Now I am not so sure. Perfect wedding aside, when she looks at me now
I get the feeling she is biding her time, though for what I could scarcely
say. I dread sleeping in that room
I have the feeling she sees
efforts to convince her otherwise. Perhaps they amuse
I finally got the box open when I accidentally dropped it. The profusion
of carving seemed to writhe beneath my fingers, making it difficult
to hold. Inside it is lined with silk the same colour as these walls,
shot with glints of green so vibrant it looks toxic. Embedded in a jewellers
tray are six gold rings, about the size of my wedding band. When I remove
one to examine it more closely I see that the inside of the ring is
intricately engraved with a helix of ivy leaves. It looks familiar
I take off my ring to compare it: it is the same. So are the other five
rings, the engraving crisp, as if barely worn. They feel heavier than
they should, my palm can barely hold them. As the front door opens it
comes to me then that marriage is a binding as well as a bonding, symbolised
in the exchange of these rings that she chose. And as I hear her on
the stairs I know that my ring will not be the last.
© Anna Smith Nov 2006
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